Did you know that there are rural communities in Venezuela where as many as 12% of the people carry the parasite that causes Chagas Disease? The vast majority don’t receive existing treatments, though, simply because nobody takes the trouble and expense to diagnose them. By the time the disease manifests itself – in the form of terrible digestive tract ailments or life-threateningly enlarged hearts – it’s typically been several decades since the time of infection, and far too late to do much about it.
In fact, aside from a few pilot studies in a couple of villages, nobody really has clear sense of where Chagas disease is most prevalent in Venezuela, where it’s growing fastest, or where Chipo-control efforts are most likely to bring most benefit in controlling the epidemic. The problem, in large part, is that existing diagnostic equipment is too big, too cumbersome, too delicate and far too expensive to really operate in the kinds of rural communities that bear the brunt of Chagas Disease.
Now, a team of Venezuelan scientists – including longtime reader Guido Núñez-Mujica – is developing a new, rugged, low-cost diagnostic device called LavaAmp that could revolutionize efforts to quantify and control not just the Chagas Epidemic, but a host of other neglected diseases – including some endemic to Venezuela, like the Guanarito Virus.
They’re trying to get access to a business incubator program called the Unreasonable Institute, but they need to raise some of the money it takes to attend the program. It’s an interesting innovation-funding model:
so I hope you’ll consider chipping in a hundred bucks or so.
They could use it.